Honey instead of antibiotics: According to studies, Manuka honey can prevent surgery infections

Honey instead of antibiotics: According to studies, Manuka honey can prevent surgery infections

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Nanotechnology meets naturopathy

A recent study by researchers at Newcastle University showed how an electrostatic nano-coating made from Manuka honey can protect against infections during surgery. Natural medicine has been using honey to treat infected wounds for thousands of years. The research presented could limit the inflationary use of antibiotics before and after surgery.

Manuka honey has long been known for its outstanding antibacterial properties. Modern surgery now wants to take advantage of this effect. A research team coated honey on surgical nets that are inserted into the body during certain operations. The Manuka honey acts like a natural antibiotic that is supposed to protect against wound infections.

Honey has been used to treat infected wounds for thousands of years. Researchers at Newcastle University have shown that this protection against infection also works inside the body. They developed a new surgical mesh that is coated with Manuka honey. The research results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Frontiers".

Is Manuka honey the new wonder weapon against resistant germs?

The team stored tiny amounts of Manuka honey between the layers of a surgical mesh. Because of the honey, the nets act like a natural antibiotic that is supposed to prevent infections after an operation. The honey also seems to work against resistant bacteria, where antibiotics are becoming increasingly useless.

What are surgical nets?

Surgical nets are medical devices made of a synthetic material that are used to support weakened tissue in the body during an operation. Such nets are used, for example, for inguinal hernias, hernias, pelvic floor weaknesses or for stress incontinence. The nets are used to promote healing of soft tissues in the body after surgery.

Disadvantages of surgical networks

The disadvantage of such nets is an increased risk of infection, since bacteria often form a biofilm on the surface of the nets and an infection source is thus easily generated. According to the research team, skin and soft tissue infections are among the most common bacterial infections that make up about ten percent of all hospitalizations. Many of these infections resulted from surgery.

Looking for antibiotic alternatives

Such infections are usually treated with antibiotics. However, there are antibiotic-resistant strains among the hospital germs. Scientists around the world are therefore desperately looking for antibiotic alternatives.

Honey instead of antibiotics

The international team headed by Dr. Piergiorgio Gentile from Newcastle University and Dr. Elena Mancuso from Ulster University developed an electrostatic nano coating made of Manuka honey that can be attached to surgical nets. In the laboratory, the honey released substances that inhibit bacteria for up to three weeks.

Manuka honey stops infections before they happen

"The mesh is implanted in the body to ensure stability while the inner tissue heals," explains lead study author Dr. Piergiorgio Gentile. Unfortunately, the network also offers a perfect surface for the growth of bacteria. Once a biofilm is formed, it is difficult to treat an infection. The coating of Manuka honey prevents the formation of such a biofilm and thus stops the infection before it arises.

Honey is also effective for internal bacterial control

"These results are really exciting," emphasizes Dr. Gentile. It is the first time that honey is used to fight infections inside the body. "Although there are numerous antibiotic-based coatings for implants, it has been found that the effect of antibiotics can decrease over time because antibiotic-resistant bacteria can develop," adds Dr. Mancuso.

Why Manuka honey works best

While most varieties of honey are believed to have bactericidal properties, Manuka honey appears to be the most effective of all varieties. The researchers refer to a New Zealand study that shows that manuka honey gets its outstanding antibacterial effect from the pollen of the manuka tree. This adds the unique ingredient methylglyoxal to the honey, which is responsible for the special antimicrobial properties.

A sandwich with manuka honey

To produce the surgical nets, the team used a layer system in which a layer of negatively charged honey was followed by a positively charged layer of polymers. According to the study, each layer is only ten to 20 nanometers thick. In this way, the optimal amount of honey and the optimal timing of the delivery could be achieved.

Not too much and not too little

"Too little honey is not enough to fight infections, but too much honey can also kill healthy cells," emphasizes Dr. The 16 layers ensure that the honey is released for two to three weeks. This gives the wound enough time to heal without an infection developing.

Naturopathy in advanced medicine

In the laboratory, the honey showed an effect against common, partly resistant bacteria of the type MRSA, staphylococci and E-Coli. "With our study, we have demonstrated the promising combination of a naturally derived antibacterial agent with a nanotechnological approach," sums up Dr. Mancuso. (vb)

You can find more information about Manuka honey in the article: Manuka honey: effects and uses.

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Elena Mancuso, Chiara Tonda-Turo, Piergiorgio Gentile, u.a .: Potential of Manuka Honey as a Natural Polyelectrolyte to Develop Biomimetic Nanostructured Meshes With Antimicrobial Properties, Frontiers, 2019,
  • Newcastle University: How a Manuka Honey ‘sandwich’ could be the key to fighting infections (accessed: 04.12.2019),

Video: The buzz about super-food Manuka honey (August 2022).